Dear Teachers:

Thank you for all you do.  I daily see how you struggle to serve your students ... how you sacrifice for them and for your profession ... how you give ... how you agonize to make wise decisions for your  pupils.  No one has greater respect for you and your vocation than I.  In fact, I have so much respect for Hesperia teachers, I moved to Hesperia so my three children could attend school in HUSD.

As you know, the State of California faces a financial crisis.  Everyone agrees that as a result, HUSD faces real, actual financial issues, not something made up for bargaining purposes.  The only way for HUSD to deal with this crisis is to make real, actual, painful decisions.  That means making real, actual, painful cuts in spending.  Since approximately 75 percent of all the District's spending is in salaries, it stands to reason that three-quarters of the cuts must come in salaries.  So now that we know that the bulk of the necessary cuts must come in salaries, how should these cuts be apportioned to do the least amount of harm to the students, the teachers and the District going forward.

Beginning May 2nd, you will have the opportunity and responsibility to vote on four proposals as to what teachers should do to bear their fair share of the burden.  The choices, as I understand them are:

Accept one non-paid furlough day.  (Approx. savings of $300,000) Defer for one year, the 1 percent raise already negotiated for next year.  (Approx. savings of $600,000) For one year, freeze moving over a column or down a step on the pay scale.  (Approx. savings of between $1,600,000 and $2,000,000) None of the above.  (Savings of $0.00)

As I understand it, any one of the 1st three choices will help.  But honestly, respected teachers, there should be a fifth choice; ALL OF THE ABOVE.  Again, as I understand it, if all 3 choices were taken as a whole, no teachers would lose their jobs and no student programs would be eliminated.  Is it such an unthinkable sacrifice? Everyone would feel a pinch, but no one (students or teachers) would get clobbered with a sledge hammer.

Lest you think that I don't appreciate or understand your hard work to get where you are, let me point out that like you, I too have earned my Bachelor's degree.  Like many of you, I am not well off and I fight for every penny.  I understand how every seemingly insignificant pay increase makes a significant difference as gas and food prices continue to rise.  I understand.

However, in my world, as in most jobs outside the field of education, I have to prove myself every day. I could lose my job for any reason or no reason. If I want to make more money, I have to work harder, be more effective, give my employer greater value than I did yesterday, get another job or start an additional business. Teachers, on the other hand, receive a pay raise essentially every year by simply being in the profession one additional year and moving a step.  I have worked in the business world for the same wonderful employer for almost 19 years and it has been several years since my last raise.  You received a 4 percent raise last year and are due for a 1 percent raise next year.  My point is not to say how fortunate you are, but rather to try to put things in a different or non-public education perspective as you decide how to vote.

What if you choose "None of the Above" on your ballot?

As many as 56 of your fellow teachers, human beings with mortgages, student loans and other obligations, will be out of work and looking for a job in a tough economy (have you noticed all of the home foreclosures and all of the businesses closing?).   Your class sizes will increase because you have fewer teachers, which may lead to lower test scores. Outstanding programs such as elementary music in HUSD will die.  Everyone agrees that a music education stimulates academic development; less academic stimulation = lower test scores = greater scrutiny of the District, of school sites and of individual teachers.  (Elementary music is the only program I specifically heard mentioned at the April 7 board meeting and I have a special appreciation for band because I have two children in band, but I believe other programs will be affected as well.)

Is a 1 percent raise worth seeing up to 56 of your friends and colleagues go through the pain and tribulation of being released and struggling to pay bills?  Is a 1 percent raise worth more students in each classroom?   Is a 1 percent raise worth giving up all of the proven benefits of outstanding programs that would be cut?   Is 1 percent really worth all that?  How about the step and column moves?  You are already accustomed to living on a personal budget of however much you currently make.  Rather than go down a step next year, generously delay that step for one year.  Aren't the benefits of that sacrifice worth it?

Now, why should you care about this? You're thinking, "I'm not one of the 56 ... the cuts are mostly in elementary and I'm secondary ... I don't teach a program being cut ... I don't have children in elementary music ... I've put 5, 10, 20 years into teaching and I've paid my dues, why should I give back anything when I've work so hard for so long ... haven't I earned everything I get?"  Those aren't selfish question, they're legitimate questions.

"Many hands make light work."  Wouldn't spreading the pain over a large group be more bearable?  Would you be willing to do it for the students who are ultimately the reason teachers exist?  How about for your colleagues?  Why not for the good of the District and ultimately for the country, in terms of a better education for thousands of Hesperia students?  How about doing it for the sense of self esteem that comes from a selfless act?

How about doing it for yourself?  This time it is 56 "other" people.  Perhaps next time it will be middle school athletics.  Or maybe next time it will be the high school audio visual class.  Next time it could be you!  Set the precedent now, so that next time the state is in crisis and they want to cut your job, Hesperia will have already established a tradition of selflessness and willingness to help colleagues through tough times.  If you sacrifice today, those future teachers will be more likely to sacrifice for you.  By the way, haven't your administrators and the classified employees union (custodians, instructional aides, secretaries, etc.) voted to contribute an appropriate share to the cost cutting effort?  Will you be able to face your fellow employees if your union does not pitch in, as was the case at least once in the past?

Finally, as you consider your decision, please don't just listen to the Hesperia Teachers Association leadership.  (My impression is that HTA leadership prefers a "None of the Above" vote.)  Also listen to other teachers with opposing points of view and additional information.  (You know, it is not always to a union's advantage to give all available information or alternate points of view.)   It appears to me that HTA has taken Mr. Spock's advice from Star Trek II; "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few".  Rather than recommend that the entire membership equally bear a very small portion of the burden, they are prepared to sacrifice the few; the 56 RIFed teachers, the elementary music students and the middle school music teachers who will no longer inherit trained musicians as a base upon which to build.  Since I am not on HTA's Executive Council, I don't know their reasoning and must assume they have honorable motives.  But consider that they might just be wrong.

Starting Friday, vote to save the 56.  Vote for smaller class sizes.  Vote to save outstanding academic programs.  Vote for improving test scores.  At a minimum, choose to freeze salaries at their current position on the pay scale for one year.  Even better, advocate a fifth option ... "ALL OF THE ABOVE."   Teachers, you are "We the People" of HTA.  If you fight together for ALL OF THE ABOVE, your union leadership will have to submit to your collective voices.  Clearly, this would be a sacrifice on your part, but maybe it is the right thing to do.  The community would certainly take note.

Thank you for your time and your thoughtful consideration.  Most importantly, thank you for teaching our children.

Scot Beattie
Concerned Parent and Still Friend (I hope) of HUSD Teachers